Faith tells the mayor about the demon and his proposal. He offers her a glass of milk, nothing uncool about healthy teeth and bones, tells her to pull back her hair because she has a pretty face, and orders her to find the demon, kill him, and get the books. Faith doesn't drink the milk.
Buffy tells Giles and Wesley about the demon. They aren't familiar with the term ascension, but Faith recognizes it as something referenced in one the books Giles keeps hidden, because he thinks they describe magic she isn't ready for. He gets the book and it refers to a Desmond Kane in Sharpsville whose journal refers with fear to the ascension. After the ascension, Sharpsville disappeared. Giles wants Buffy to meet the demon. Cordelia walks in and asks Wesley to help her with an English paper, he is English she reasons. And she studies best over dinner, suggesting Friday at 8:00. She leaves and Xander remarks that she has redefined flimsy excuse. Wesley says they should find the demon and "persuade" him to lend them the books for free. Buffy thinks Faith would help with the "persuasion". But they don't know where she is.
The demon is in his home - it looks like a cheap room - packing. Faith shows up looking for the books. The demon is willing to negotiate over price, but Faith just pulls out a knife and stabs him. But he isn't quite dead. A fight ensues and she stabs him several times. When she gets up, she stares at her blood covered hands. We cut to Angel's place where Faith shows up, still with blood on her hands. She tells Angel it isn't human blood, but that the things he said to her in Consequences are true. She wants his help. He's ready to support her, but pretty soon things heat up and Faith is coming on strong. Angel rebuffs her, saying he's with Buffy. But they do kiss goodbye. Unfortunately, Buffy shows up in time to see that. We cut to the mayor's office where we learn this was part of the mayor's plan. He wanted Angel and Faith to have sex so Angel would lose his soul again. He can't understand why Angel turned her down but says they will have to do it the hard way, now.
Wesley and Giles have not been able to find out anything more about the ascension. Giles suggests calling the council and Wesley says he should do it since he hasn't told the council Giles is working with him. Buffy comes in and Wesley says she and Faith must find the demon. Buffy wants to go alone, but Wesley insists she wait for Faith. He also says it may take a long time to track down the demon. Xander shows up with the address of the demon. He bribed Willie the bartender. As Buffy is leaving, Faith shows up. Buffy wants to go alone, but Faith insists on coming along. As they leave, Xander comments on the coldness between the two. When they get to the demon's place, they find the body. Buffy is shocked at the violence done. Faith just wants to get away.
The mayor is meeting with a mysterious masked stranger. He's apparently summoned this character, he mentions chanting and sacrifices, to desoul Angel. The stranger agrees to do it. Meanwhile, Buffy is at school with Willow and after a very little prompting tells her about seeing Angel and Faith together. Willow says Faith would definitely make a play for Angel, but that he would never betray Buffy. She asks what Angel said, but Buffy has not confronted him. Willow sends her off to do exactly that.
At Angel's, we see Faith showing up again. They talk and Angel says he wants to help her and to trust her. She calls him a chump and splashes something on him. Then the masked stranger shows up and utters an incantation. This, apparently, removes Angel's soul. He puts on his vampire face, grabs and kisses Faith. Then he starts beating her up. Eventually, she gets him to listen. She wants to introduce him to the real power in town. He agrees.
In the library, Wesley is talking to Giles, Willow, Buffy, Xander, Cordelia, and Oz. He says they have been one step behind the mayor and have to do something to catch up. He asks where Angel and Faith are. Buffy says she went to the mansion but Angel wasn't there and Faith is missing. Willow claims these are unrelated. Giles says Buffy should go to the mayor's office and search it. He warns her not to confront the mayor. She says she'll go home and get weapons. Willow says her computer hacking has netted nothing. Oz suggests the hall of records. Giles says Wesley should take the group there and search for information about the mayor. Cordelia is eager to go with Wesley and Xander says he'll skip the trip and just cruise around keeping his ear to the ground. Cordelia is happy he's not coming. They leave. As Buffy leaves, Giles tells her to be careful.
In the mayor's office, Angel is introduced. The mayor lets him stab him. He demonstrates his imperviousness to harm. Angel notes the mayor still doesn't like germs. The mayor agrees they are nasty things. Angel says his intention is to find Buffy and torture, maim and kill her. The mayor likes this, but requests the death be a slow one since he doesn't want a replacement slayer any time soon. Angel says that's his favourite kind. The mayor tells him he'd like Faith to be home by 11:00.
Xander is walking down the street cursing Wesley. He sees Faith and Angel and tells them they should go to Buffy's where she is stocking up on weapons. Angel punches him, knocking him down. They do go to Buffy's where Joyce lets them in. They tell Buffy they have the books at the mansion. She goes with them. Once there, they reveal themselves and Angel knocks Buffy out.
At the hall of records, Oz finds a picture of the mayor, but it's a hundred years old. They realize the mayor isn't human. Xander comes in to tell them the really bad news, that Angelus is back. He also tells them Faith is on his side.
At the mansion, Angel has chained Buffy. She comes to and Faith begins taunting her. Faith tells her that as a child she wanted a dog - any kind just something to love - and toys. She now has Angel and torture implements. She talks about how her mom was always drinking and passing out. She complains that Buffy always got all the praise. That people always wanted Faith to be like Buffy but never Buffy to be like Faith. Buffy says that's because she is better than Faith. She says Faith could only get Angel through magic. That she can only hit Buffy because she's chained. Faith tells Buffy that the mayor built the town for demons to feed on. That come graduation day he gets his reward. And she'll be at his right hand, assuming he has hands after the ascension. At that point, Angel and Buffy reveal this is a plot. Angel has not lost his soul. Buffy isn't really chained.
Faith tries to flee. Angel fights with her but she tosses him aside. Wesley and the others break in and capture Angel, thinking he's Angelus. Buffy and Faith fight until both are holding blades to the other's throat. Faith says Buffy isn't ready to kill her. That killing Faith would make Buffy Faith. She kisses her on the forehead and flees.
At the library we learn Giles knows the masked stranger (he introduced him to his wife) and that's why Angel was saved. They conspired together. Wesley is mad he wasn't informed. Giles says they must tell the council they now have a rogue slayer. At the apartment, the mayor tries to cheer up Faith by telling her he will completely destroy Buffy and her friends come ascension. He also says they should play miniature golf. At the mansion, Buffy tells Angel she needs a break. But that she is always his.
My first feelings about this show are disappointment. The storyline is resolved by hiding two huge things from us: the relationship between Giles and that mysterious spell weaving masked man and the fact that Angel is just faking it. Of course, those are related, but I still felt doubly cheated. I also have to say that the masked man was pretty hokey. And so was the demon.
When Faith talks about her unhappy childhood - the mother who was busy drinking and passing out - you can see why she was so happy to become a slayer. Although Buffy comes from a broken home, she's still got it a lot better than Faith. Take away the slayer job and Faith has nothing. No wonder she has joined with the mayor. She sees her major talent as the ability to kill. The mayor really likes that while the others have condemned her for it. But I don't think she has totally bought in to his view. She still doesn't dress or act the way he wants. And she doesn't drink the milk he offers her. But she does seem cheered up when he mentions miniature golf. And she does seem to pull her hair back as the episode progresses, at least when she's in the mayor's presence.
When Faith talks about Angel as a dog, it reminds me of vampire Willow calling him puppy. And that, too, took place in an S&M type scenario. This has to be a deliberate reference. Are we being told that we are seeing a different aspect of Faith, but that like Willow there is also a good side? In my review of Consequences, I suggested that Faith might be faking and just infiltrating the mayor's organization. It certainly doesn't seem that way now, but I'm not convinced that there is no good left in Faith. In her scenes with the mayor, she is reluctant to wholly support him. She does his bidding, but not with the carefree amorality he has. And in her rant at Buffy, she indicates that she really does want to be like Buffy. That she envies what she sees as the easy life Buffy has. She's the cute blonde with the nice mom, the nice home, the attention of everyone, and the hunky boyfriend who loves her. Faith is the sleazy brunette who everyone criticizes and who guys only want for sex. She tries to turn her negative attributes into positives, arguing that her murderous ways are appropriate for a slayer and trying to use her sex appeal to further herself (she does this both with the mayor in Dopplegangland and with Angel in this episode). But she knows she's wrong. She tacitly admits this when she tells Buffy that for Buffy to kill Faith would be for her to turn into Faith. She sees that would be a degeneration. And by not killing Buffy, by kissing her and fleeing, she's still holding out hope that somehow things will be okay.
In Consequences, I argued that Faith promotes a Nietzschean philosophy. That's an amoral philosophy in which the strong have the right to take all they want and all they can hold. I realize that the mayor is an ideal example of that philosophy. As the great power of Sunnydale, he sees himself above all sense of morality. He's ready to do anything (in Band Candy he's ready to sacrifice babies) to achieve his ends. But he does this with an unremitting cheerfulness. He sees no difference in the importance of statements as diverse as "drink your milk" and "murder him".
The mayor is what Angel is without his soul and what Faith might become. Someone without a moral compass capable of any atrocity without regret. Faith seems to be torn between this monster, who at the same time manages to project all the conventional images of morality and social correctness, and Angel who has learnt to control the beast within but is a true monster, a vampire. In this episode, Faith obeys the mayor - who seems to be taking the role of parent, but desires a relationship with Angel.
In Helpless (Eighteen), the parental relationship Giles has with Buffy (his substituting for the father who is so often missing) was made clear. In this episode, Xander criticizes Wesley for having failed to look after Faith. Although his criticism is no doubt partially inspired by his jealousy, he's right. Wesley was the father substitute for Faith. He was intended to play the role for her that Giles does for Buffy. He failed and drove her into the arms of the mayor. The mayor seems to instinctively realize this. He rebuffs Faith's sexual advances, acts as if he's worried about her health, talks about her clothes and hair as is he were a father, even treats Angel as if he were taking his daughter Faith out on an ordinary date. If Faith perceives herself as a child, she's neglected by the force of good and welcomed by evil. If she perceives herself as woman, she's rejected by the man she desires, Angel. Meanwhile, the force of evil - the mayor - tries to get Angel for her. She may be uncertain of which way to turn, but she's not getting a lot of positive reinforcement. It's no surprise that the mayor looks good to her.
It isn't clear to me when Buffy begins to suspect Faith of something more than boyfriend theft and when she actually talks to Angel. Certainly, Faith's actions in the demon's home are suspicious. She walks in without any caution - although Faith often does that - and she knows where the light switch is without looking. But I think the key moment occurs when Buffy says the murder of the demon was somebody's idea of a party. Faith says maybe he put up a fight. Buffy pauses for a long time, staring at the body and later at the departing Faith. I think her major suspicion starts here. Why would Faith be an apologist for the mystery killer? And isn't Faith's comment in keeping with her continual rationalization of her murderous instincts?
In retrospect, it seems that Giles manipulated the meeting, the one where Wesley takes most of the gang to the hall of records, to separate Buffy so she could link up with Angel and Faith. And his warning to her to be careful seems more significant now that we know he was in on the plan. I'm annoyed that there isn't anything, other than his warning to her, to suggest he was at all involved in the conspiracy.
There was an awful lot of humour in this episode. And most of it from Giles. His remark about standards slipping when demons want money and not the still beating heart of a virgin. Or his complaint that the demon lives in a place by the bus station rather than a pit of filth or a crypt. His asking Xander for a receipt to reimburse him for his bribe. The fact that the favour he did for the masked stranger was introducing him to his wife.
Of course, there is plenty of humour in the mayor as well. In fact, all his scenes are marked by a wonderful conflation of conventional morality with totally amoral behaviour. His attempt to get Faith to dress more conventionally and to drink milk is contrasted with his sending her to kill the demon and have sex with Angel. And, of course, we also have his offer of mints to his mysterious guest who he wants to desoul Angel.
Is there any doubt that Cordelia is trying to rejoin the gang and to get Xander jealous. In this episode, she makes a great show of flaunting her potential relationship with Wesley and she actually works with the gang on their research. Something she really doesn't like. I think Cordelia really does miss being part of the group. Not only are there the pleasureable aspects of belonging, but she also got to do things that held real value. Not many teenage girls get the chance to save the world. Being part of something that big isn't easy to give up.
Finally, when Buffy tells Angel she needs a break, I'm not sure if her "after this" refers to the events that just occurred or to after ascension day. I'm assuming the latter since that will make for an easy segue to Angel's new series.
All in all, this is a disappointing episode plotwise, since key plot points were made through the use of a demonus ex machina. But the dialogue was still sharp and the problem facing Faith - the need to choose between good and evil - was well developed. Those are saving graces that make this a good, but not great, episode.
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